Annual Benefits Sign-Up is Less Popular than Tax Season, but Beats Being Sick.

VSP Survey Takes Pulse of the Nation on Which Benefits Matter Most, if Men or Women Get it Done Faster, and What You Would Rather do Instead.


Rancho Cordova, Calif. (Sept. 1, 2015) — Let’s just say it’s not most people’s favorite thing to do. Known in human resources offices as “Open Enrollment,” the annual ritual of choosing your medical plan, opting in or out of dental and vision coverage, and deciding how much money to put in your flexible spending account is, as they say, “part of growing up.” On the surface it’s just another HR transaction. Under the surface, though, the process prompts us to take mental stock of our physical health, the security of our employment, the state of our economy, and the scariest thing of all: Our future.

VSP Vision Care is preparing for its own annual rite of encouraging people to keep vision care top of mind during Open Enrollment.  As the nation’s only not-for-profit vision care company its highest priority is to advocate for regular, professional vision care for all people. Annual eye exams are part of total health, helping to detect signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. At the same time, vision care is typically one of the quickest and least expensive benefit options to review and select. VSP wants to make sure that “easy” doesn’t become “easy to dismiss.” So it conducted a national survey to raise awareness of how people feel and behave when it comes to Open Enrollment — and to encourage people to “check the box” when it comes to vision care.

Here’s what the VSP “Open Talk about Open Enrollment” survey revealed:

Santa, swimming and school trump x-rays, copays and FSAs.

When asked to rank their preference for seven seasons, respondents showed a clear preference for “Holiday Season” (73%), “Bathing Suit Season” (48%) and “Back-to-School Season” (28%). They even preferred “Tax Season” (20%) to “Open Enrollment Season” (15%). If 15% still sounds better than expected, note that only two seasons ranked lower: “Allergy Season” (9%), and “Cold/Flu Season” (8%).

If you feel anything at all, it’s probably dread.

About half of respondents (52%) reported “no particular feelings at all” in anticipation of Open Enrollment. While 16% characterized their feelings as “excitement” or “eagerness,” twice as many (33%) chose “annoyance” or “dread.” By contrast, after all the boxes have been checked and choices filed, ambivalence fell more than 20 points with 31% of respondents describing “no particular feeling at all.” (The emotional impact, it seems, doesn’t really kick in until it’s all over.) Among those who did feel something, reactions included “relieved” (23%), “satisfied” (21%), and “uncertain” (15%). Only 10% of respondents said they felt “confident” when it was all said and done.

Women are all about the eyes; men go for the teeth.

The top three benefits typically offered by employers during Open Enrollment (according to the respondents) are medical (84%), dental (72%), and vision (61%) plans. The same three in the same order were identified as the benefits respondents felt were the most important to them personally. It was a toss-up between the sexes though on which matters more — a healthy smile or healthy eyes. Men ranked the importance of a dental plan higher than women and, conversely, women ranked the importance of a vision plan higher than men. They agreed on one thing, however: Both reported feeling less knowledgeable about their vision plan than either their dental or medical plans.

I may not know everything, but I do know this …

Despite overall uncertainty, respondents were pretty sure about one specific part of their vision plan: Whether they’re eligible for new glasses this year. Respondents who indicated their company provides all three of the top benefits (medical, vision and dental) were asked which of eight questions they could answer “I know for sure off the top of my head.” The top three were:

  1. “Do you know who your healthcare coverage is provided by?” (83%)
  2. “What is your co-pay at the doctor’s office? (71%)
  3. “Are you eligible for new glasses this year?” (62%)

Of all the benefits, it’s medical where the real heartache lies. A majority (67%) named their medical plan as the benefit they are most knowledgeable about. However, they also ranked it as the hardest one to evaluate and make choices for and the one for which they have the least confidence in their choices.

Careless or efficient? Considered or procrastinating? More on the male/female divide …

When asked to choose one of three labels that best describe how quickly they complete Open Enrollment, the bulk (57%) chose “Relaxed Rule-Follower,” saying they complete Open Enrollment within several days after it begins. Next came “Eager Completers” (28%), nearly all of which said they finish within either days — or even hours — after Open Enrollment begins. Coming in last (of course) were “Persistent Procrastinators” (15%). Just over half of them said it takes them weeks to complete their sign-up. Here, too, a gender difference emerged: More men than women said they complete Open Enrollment within hours. More women than men said they complete it within weeks.

Do it, ignore it, groan about it.

When it comes to identifying the first thing respondents do when Open Enrollment is announced, about half of respondents — probably to the annoyance and envy of their coworkers — claimed immediate action. They either “Begin deciding on selections right away” (24%) or “Plan time to discuss it with spouse or legally covered partner” (20%). Others postpone the process in some way: “Add it to my to-do list or calendar” (16%), “Download or set aside information to review” (12%), or “Ignore it completely knowing they’ll remind me later” (8%). Another 8% chose a more primal reaction: “groan out loud.”

It’s different when you buy it “on the outside.”

When asked to compare their confidence in and knowledge about independent insurance decisions (e.g., auto and homeowners insurance) versus Open Enrollment decisions (e.g., medical, dental, vision, etc.) respondents were more likely to say they are “more confident” (28% vs. 10%) and “more knowledgeable” (27% vs. 13%)  their independent decisions than their Open Enrollment decisions.

Some things are definitely worse …

Given the choice, respondents said they would rather do the grocery shopping (76%), host a family gathering (65%), or watch a documentary (64%) than complete Open Enrollment. (It’s hard to say if they saw the options as a burden or a blessing.) They were divided (51% vs. 49%) on whether they preferred the process of completing Open Enrollment or buying a car. They were more united, however, when it came to one thing: 75% would prefer to complete Open Enrollment than clean a teenager’s bathroom.


VSP Global® unites industry-leading businesses to bring the highest quality eye care and eyewear products and services to help people see across the globe. VSP Global businesses include not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care, the largest vision care company with more than 75 million members and a network of 32,000 eye doctors in the U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland; Marchon® Eyewear Inc., one of the three largest global manufacturers, designers and distributors of quality fashion and technologically advanced eyewear and sunwear; Eyefinity®, the largest EHR and premier practice management software company for the eye care industry; VSP Optics Group, industry leaders in new lens technologies, production processes, service and logistics; and VSP Retail, delivering a memorable consumer experience through a variety of channels that meet the diverse needs of VSP customers. VSP Global businesses operate in 100 countries on 6 continents.





Jace Duval